January 24, 2019
Learning Thursday #4: Is Constructivism an Effective Approach to Instructional Design?
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January 24, 2019
Learning Thursday #4: Is Constructivism an Effective Approach to Instructional Design?
Katrina Marie Baker works for Adobe as a Senior Learning Evangelist. Her independently operated consulting firm has advised organizations in aerospace, construction, healthcare, legal, retail, technology, and transportation. Katrina facilitates keynote sessions and master classes for learning professionals. She also maintains YouTube channel Learn Tech Collective. She has authored books LMS Success (2018), The LMS Selection Checklist (2018), and Corporate Training Tips & Tricks (2017). Katrina is a former Director of Technology with the Association for Talent Development. She has worked in people/project management and global training capacities for Fortune 500 retailer Whole Foods Market, and Global 100 law firms Cooley LLP and Latham & Watkins LLP. Previously, Katrina worked in music and video production for clients such as Disney Channel and Adult Swim.
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Learning Thursday is a blog series that features a new L&D article every other week along with discussion points.  Read and then share your own ideas by commenting below!  Check out the last Learning Thursday here.

Last October, I posted a list of articles related to constructivism and the effective use of technology, games and gamification within the learning environment.  At its core, constructivism seeks to actively involve the learner in a process of meaning and knowledge construction.  Learners are exposed to an environment and framework that allows them to derive meaning as opposed to passively receiving information.  Many learning professionals incorporate constructivism into their instructional design approach.

However, constructivism may not be right for every circumstance.  One of our colleagues, Scott Weersing, suggested the below article that challenges the use of constructivism and related teaching methods.

Kirschner, P. A., Sweller, J., & Clark, R. E. (2006). Why minimal guidance during instruction does not work: An analysis of the failure of constructivist, discovery, problem-based, experiential, and inquiry-based teaching. Educational Psychologist, 41(2), 75-86. University of Southern California

After reading the article, please add a comment with your thoughts on one (or all) of these questions:

  1. Do you feel constructivism is an effective learning approach?
  2. If you feel constructivism is effective in some circumstances but not others, how would you determine when to use a constructivist approach?
  3. What concepts in this article did you strongly agree/disagree with?
6 Comments
2019-02-07 22:08:37
2019-02-07 22:08:37

  1. Do you feel constructivism is an effective learning approach?

Yes, learners believe it is effective because they get to apply what they are learning to a real life situation. However, it takes more planning and design to create those experiences.

  1. If you feel constructivism is effective in some circumstances but not others, how would you determine when to use a constructivist approach?

One factor is how much previous knowledge does a learner have about a topic or task. I think constructivism works when you set up the learning experience by saying, we are going to use what you know about content X, to complete this task. If the learners don’t have previous knowledge then you would to use a say, show, do approach. The second factor is how much time can you take the learners away from the job. If you want people back to work and using what they learned on the job, then constructivism is not the way to go

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2019-02-05 00:36:16
2019-02-05 00:36:16

I primarily work with adult learners in the workplace and I have found that while a constructivist approach takes more time to implement, it is useful in situations where people are required to gain understanding so that they can analyze problems and make decisions in their job. In situations where rote job performance is required and speed and accuracy are valued over understanding, teaching people to understand a problem and discover solutions is not necessary.

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ToyinJ.A.
's comment
2019-02-05 10:15:13
2019-02-05 10:15:13
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ToyinJ.A.
's comment

Sorry, I am a bit confused.  Do you really mean that ‘understand a problem and discover solutions’ is not always necessary for adult learners? Must be me, misunderstanding although I tried to read your comment over and over again.

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Lieve Weymeis
's comment
2019-02-05 21:58:22
2019-02-05 21:58:22
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Lieve Weymeis
's comment

Yes, I do mean that exactly. I too was surprised the first time I encountered that situation in the workplace. However, there are jobs where roles are divided for efficiency – assembly-line style. For example, one person inputs data into a system and while they are valued for their speed and accuracy they are not expected to understand the data; the data is interpreted/utilized elsewhere by other people with varying levels of understanding depending on their particular role in the process, and the system is designed to minimize errors in data input (such as allowing only 10-digit numbers in the telephone number field, and so on).

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2019-01-30 09:13:14
2019-01-30 09:13:14

@miwalder Just commented on your blog, now see you are talking about  4th grade, but to me as Belgian that has no meaning because education structure is different depending on the country. This could be a very interesting discussion, love to learn how other teachers/trainers cope with this topic.

@Katrina I will start writing, but had to blog so much as answer to questions that it has been impossible until now.

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2019-01-29 14:49:16
2019-01-29 14:49:16

Constructivism can produce very good results and motivates the students a lot, I worked with 4th graders in German teaching with this method. They wrote their own dialogs, I corrected them, then they read them and recorded it on their cell phone. Each group could design their own graphic and then we uploaded the dialogs on Youtube. Obviously constructivism is not the ideal way for all types of learning, for new topics, new grammar or new formulas in math the flipped classroom model could work better. In general I think that an e-learning environment should more look like a social network, then a list of exercices. In the attached image is a sketch for a social learning network based on constructivism. I also wrote an article about this topic on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/digitization-individualization-self-determined-learning-walder/

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